Research Paper Outline – Format, Tips, Requirements

Research paper outline guide

The research paper is an integral part of a college student’s job. To make the work look structured, easy to read, you must create a plan and write an article. Doesn’t know how to do it and what elements to include? Don’t worry, and we will tell you about all the nuances and explain why the plan will ensure the high quality of your paper and facilitate the writing process.

Research Paper Outline – What Is This?

The research paper outline is the structure of the future material. Usually, this is a list of theses and anchor points that help to smoothly reveal the topic: what it is, what it is for, how it is used, what the use is. It is essential to create a good outline for your research paper. Indeed, there are often moments in work on the material when the author abruptly jumps from thought to thought or does not fully disclose the topic.

The plan helps to concentrate and present the future text: what questions the reader can find answers to and how it will help him in his work or everyday life. With the help of the plan, you, as an author, can highlight key points and create navigation in the text so that the reader, with a cursory glance, immediately sees useful information and proceeds to a detailed study of the material.

The article outline also helps the author understand where to start the article and how to end it. Due to the ready-made article scheme, you save your time – according to a pre-thought-out plan, it turns out to write faster and better. You will be able to improve the quality of information presentation: introduction, outset, plot, conclusion, that is, to smoothly bring the reader to the main idea of ​​the article.

The ability to draw up a plan shows your professionalism. When you show the teacher a list of the thesis at the initial stage of work, you can immediately discuss the correct direction. In this way, you will avoid mistakes in the paper’s writing and increase the chances of a successful research defense.

What Is the Risk of the Lack of Research Paper Outline?

Pay attention to the following points. Remember how the absence of a plan affects the future text and what mistakes the authors make:

  1. Chaotic paragraph structure – it breaks the consistency and flow of the story.
  2. Some subheadings overlap with each other, repeating the same thought several times.
  3. There is no clear division into a key thesis – the reader, at a cursory glance at the text, does not understand what benefit he can derive from the material.
  4. The paragraphs are written in different styles, which creates confusion, and the reader poorly understands the text.
  5. The article does not provide full disclosure of the topic, and some important facts are omitted or mentioned in passing.

How to Create the Perfect Research Paper Outline?

To create the perfect plan, think about what goal you want to achieve through research. Perhaps the target could be the course requirements, teacher, however, don’t forget your interests. Think about how you would like to contribute to the field of science that you are studying. Remember that the target can be influenced by the technologies you want to apply in the experiment. Find out what matters most to you, and write that thought on a separate sheet of paper.

Then, research your target audience: who you are writing for. These can be professors, ordinary readers, experienced researchers, scientists, university students. Having studied who your audience is, you need to present the material depending on their knowledge. If they are ordinary readers, write in an understandable language. If it’s scientists, use a technical style. Also, you must understand how much the topic of research is essential to the readers. If you find it difficult to apply our tips on practice, use a premade template.

Title Page

The title page covers the educational work, which has its structure, which is different from the rest of the project’s text. The cover will allow a teacher or an ordinary reader to get primary information about the research topic, academic discipline, and author’s work.

One of the features of the title page’s formation is that each line has its formatting. Conventionally, the title page can be divided into several parts, which are filled with text information:

  • top of the page;
  • center part;
  • the right edge of the bottom, up to the header;
  • footer.

The upper block is intended for the full name of the educational institution or its logo. The educational institution often provides students with letterheads on which the “header” of the cover is correctly formed. In the central part, you should write information about the academic discipline and the topic of work. Below you must provide information about the author and his supervisor. At the very bottom of the sheet, you need to indicate the article’s year of publication. The cover must comply with the methodological recommendations of the educational institution or the requirements of the teacher.


The annotation tells about the research carried out by the author and the findings. Thanks to such an introductory part, the reader can immediately understand whether the publication is interesting to him or useful and essential. A correctly written abstract summarizes the material and presents it to the reader in a concise form, which is especially important when compiling a bibliographic list and searching for literary sources.


An introduction to the research paper is a presentation of a topic and main ideas. The volume of the Introduction section is 1-1.5 pages. The introduction is the first section of the project and is located on the third sheet. In the introduction, you need to disclose:

  • the relevance of the topic;
  • goal and objectives of the project;
  • the object of study;
  • a hypothesis that is put forward for confirmation if there is a practical part in the research work.

Justification of the research work’s relevance proves the significance, modernity, and the need for the research results. The purpose of the research work is a model of the desired result of the research. It is essential to indicate the research tasks to be solved. Then list the stages and methods of work, novelty, and significance. In the introduction of the research work, it is possible to formulate the research’s planned result.

Literature Review

In the literature review, you need to provide already known information on the topic. When writing this section, the author must show essential scientific works on the issue under study. To do this, it is not necessary to look through all the literature sources on the selected topic and extract from them only that information that most accurately allows you to characterize the object under study and the subject of research.

The review of information sources in terms of volume should not exceed half of the entire work volume. When writing a literature review, one should not forget about references to the sources used. Place a link after each piece of text taken from a particular source. You can specify a link in two ways:

  • by indicating the author’s surname without initials and the year of publication in brackets;
  • by indicating the source’s number, under which its bibliographic description is given in the list of used literature.

Central Part

The most important part of the study is the body. Usually, the body consists of two to four paragraphs, but there can be more chapters. Typically, each chapter solves one of the problems posed in the introduction. Thus, the number of chapters is equal to the number of tasks. Each chapter needs to start with a new page. Chapters can be divided into subheadings if required by the logic of the presentation.

The first chapter of the study is usually theoretical. It is necessary to provide definitions of concepts and problems. The chapters that follow describe the course of the experiment. Then you can write your opinion on the topic and suggest your solution to the problems found. In general, when writing the central part of the work, it is advisable to end each section with a summary or conclusion. They summarize the material presented and serve as a logical transition to subsequent sections.

Materials and Research Methods

This section is necessary to convey the order of the study and describe the methods used. At the beginning of this section, it is necessary to list the objects of study. Then, indicate the experiment’s place, experiment materials, who collected the material, the scheme of work. Describe the techniques used correctly and fully. Justify the choice of methods.

Research Results and Discussion

In this section, it is necessary to describe the results of the work carried out. This section is essential, as, in it, the author must present the results and explain the data obtained during the research. In this case, it is necessary to reveal the cause-and-effect relationship between the studied processes and the study results. In this section, you can also compare your results with already known facts from some literature data. We recommend illustrating the experimental data with tables, graphs, diagrams, diagrams, photographs, drawings, etc.


The conclusion is a must-have part of the research paper, a brief overview of the research. Here the author can again turn to the relevance of studying the topic as a whole, assess the chosen approach’s effectiveness, and emphasize the study’s prospects. The final part should not be a summation of the conclusions found at the end of each chapter of the central part. It should contain something new, essential, which constitutes the final results of the research.

List of Sources Used

The list of used sources is a numbered list of literature and other sources used in writing the project. Moreover, only those referenced works in the text are considered used, but not all articles, monographs that the author read in performing the research work.


Application is the last section, which presents visual materials that are not included in the project’s central part. These can be numerical values of the results obtained in the form of tables, photographs.

How to Format Research Paper?

When creating studies, you need to document the document in a consistent style. Depending on what kind of science you have, you can use the following styles:

  • APA Style.
  • MLA Style.
  • Chicago Style.
  • ASA Style.

There is a formatting guide for each style. There it is indicated how to draw up pictures, graphics, quotes. Note that special text editors have these styles. Therefore, you can specify the settings’ style, and the program will automatically issue the document in the required format.


Whenever you feel lost and don’t know what to write in research, your action plan will make the writing process more manageable. You will see the structure of the paper and follow the plan step by step. An outline allows you to focus on your tasks and not get distracted. Structure your thoughts, write clearly, and the reader will highly appreciate your paper.